FST Tells an Epic Tale with Regional Premiere of The Lehman Trilogy

Three actors take us on a compelling journey through American history.

By Kay Kipling February 5, 2024

Rod Brogan, Howard Kaye and Beethovan Oden in FST's The Lehman Trilogy.

Can the epic story of the Lehman Brothers business, a tale spanning more than 160 years and covering a swath of American and family history, be told using three actors, a rotating platform on the relatively small Gompertz Theatre stage, and a bounty of bankers’ boxes? It can.

Those boxes, present and used in a variety of ways throughout the entire three-hour running time of The Lehman Trilogy (now onstage at FST’s Gompertz in its regional premiere), present a memorable image to anyone who recalls the day the iconic firm collapsed in 2008. TV news then showed a downcast parade of employees leaving the company’s New York offices with similar boxes in hand as they all lost their jobs. But The Lehman Trilogy, written by Stefano Massini and adapted by Ben Power, does not focus on the bankruptcy of the long-established business during the country’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

We always know it’s coming, but there’s a lot of story to be told well before that fateful day arrives. We begin with the eldest of three Lehman brothers, Henry (Howard Kaye), arriving on New York’s shores from his native Bavaria with the intention—as every immigrant has—of achieving the American Dream. Setting himself up with a dry goods store in Alabama in the years before the Civil War, he’s later joined by brothers Emanual (Beethovan Oden) and Mayer (Rod Brogan); and together the three Jews from Bavaria gradually become cotton brokers and bankers, eventually moving to New York and making millions in investments in railroads and other industries.

The three actors portray not only the original brothers, but some of their spouses and descendants, successfully moving from a Southern belle, with a swish of an imaginary skirt and a falsetto voice, to young sons and heirs like Herbert (who went on to become Governor of New York), Philip (here seen as a money maven from an early age) to Bobbie, who initially prefers horses and art to finance but nevertheless leads the company for more than 40 years. They also narrate the action at times in third person, switching back and forth from the Yiddish accents of the first Lehmans to more standard English speech patterns.

Kaye, Brogan and Oden in The Lehman Trilogy.

Image: John Jones

It's quite a triumph of storytelling, given that most of us probably know little enough about investment firms to begin with. The Lehman Trilogy (here directed with some brio by Richard Hopkins) never bores; it moves along quickly and cleverly, with inventive methods of unwinding a complicated story. It helps greatly that pianist Jim Prosser is there at the keyboards, delivering some decade-appropriate music throughout and sometimes just holding on to a long sustained chord to promote suspense.

The show’s production values are strong, from the moving boardroom set by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay to the often dramatic lighting of Ben Rawson to the projections of Thom Korp, which take us from the waves of the Atlantic Ocean to burning cotton fields in the South to the New York Stock Exchange and more.

The actors are the glue that hold everything together, seldom missing a beat. Kaye offers some sly humor, Brogan an athletic physicality, and Oden a powerful presence and voice, although he dealt with a line stumble or two on opening night. Small wonder, perhaps, for there is a veritable deluge of dialogue to master here.

Even with that long running time, by today’s standards, and two intermissions, The Lehman Trilogy holds the audience’s interest every step of the way. It’s sometimes amusing, sometimes grave in its look at greed and excess, and sometimes touching as we see the values passed down from generation to generation, whether intentionally or less so. Well worth your time.

The Lehman Trilogy continues through March 29; for tickets, call (941) 366-9000 or visit

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